The Benefits of Employee Assistance Programs: Are They Required by Law?

This blog post will address when an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) may be subject to legal requirements such as COBRA, ERISA and Affordable Care Act.

The Benefits of Employee Assistance Programs: Are They Required by Law?

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be a valuable resource for employers, but are they required by law? While there is no universal requirement for employers to offer access to the EAP to their employees, there are certain laws that may come into play when requiring a representative to use an EAP. This blog post will address when an EAP may be subject to the requirements of COBRA, ERISA and the Affordable Care Act, as well as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and state insurance laws, such as California's Knox-Keene Act.EAPs are generally divided into two types: those that mainly provide referral services and those that actually provide health-related services. Depending on the type and level of health services provided, an EAP may be subject to different legal requirements. EAPs are exempt from ACA requirements if they qualify as “exempt benefits”.

If an EAP does not qualify as an excepted benefit, it would be subject to ACA market reforms, such as annual dollar limits, rating limits and essential minimum coverage requirements, as well as to MHPAEA requirements. Employer-sponsored EAPs that offer “medical care or benefits” are subject to ERISA and should not be subject to state insurance laws.What constitutes an EAP may be different for different employers. Some may offer a variety of benefits, such as financial, legal and health or wellness services. Others may offer counseling services only.

Under this structure, an employee can meet with an in-house employee assistance professional, if the location is convenient. The employer will identify the training of the employee and the EAP supervisor in the employer's drug testing program. Documentation of all training provided to employees and supervisory staff should be included in the training program.The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a joint labor management program that benefits New York State employees by improving employee well-being, increasing productivity and improving workplace morale. It provides employees and their family members with access to a toll-free number for admission to the service.

The EAP admissions specialist verifies eligibility to receive benefits and then refers the caller to his specialized network of EAP providers that are geographically convenient for the employee or the employee's family member. Providing employees with support for issues that affect their well-being will improve the effectiveness of your drug-free work program.In 2000, the EEOC noted in an informal discussion letter that requiring an employee to use an EAP could violate the prohibition of treating an employee as if they had a disability. Therefore, employers must be careful not to require an employee to use an EAP and must ensure that any requirement for an employee to use an EAP is “work-related” and consistent with business needs. These requirements include informing employees of their rights to continue coverage and then allowing employees to continue using the EAP even after losing their job up to 36 months after the job loss, depending on the circumstances.

If an employee decides to continue their coverage through COBRA, they can pay up to 102% of the total premium cost. Under this pricing structure, the employer pays a fixed rate per employee per month, multiplied by the total number of employees over each contract year. As a final note, in the event that an employee with a potential mental health disability threatens a co-worker, courts have held that the employee can be fired regardless of the disability.Employee assistance programs are incredibly effective in giving employees who have personal or professional problems in the workplace an opportunity to improve their performance. It is vital that EAP programs consult with legal counsel to ensure that they accurately identify and comply with the laws that apply to them.

Contact the Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC if you would like to learn more about how we can help you in that process.

Rebecca Segalla
Rebecca Segalla

Professional tv specialist. Hipster-friendly beer evangelist. Devoted music buff. Friendly zombie expert. Amateur communicator.

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